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Citizens Advice chief: Fewer jobless, but ‘we are not yet out of the woods’

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UNEMPLOYMENT has continued to drop in Jersey according to official figures but a charity head has urged the Island to prepare for another wave of redundancies as large UK companies collapse.

Malcolm Ferey, chief executive of Citizens Advice Jersey (28775151)

The total number of Islanders registered as Actively Seeking Work or claiming from the Covid Related Emergency Support Scheme for unemployed migrant workers on 28 June was 2,170, compared to the peak figure so far during the pandemic of 2,670 on 24 May.

The ASW figure, which is an official indicator of unemployment, has now fallen for five consecutive weeks, with more businesses reopening as lockdown restrictions have gradually been eased.

But recent weeks have seen a number of high-profile UK companies reporting difficulties or job losses. These include Casual Dining Group, which operates Bella Italia and the cafés at Jersey’s ports, and the BBC, which has announced that jobs will be cut in the Channel Islands.

Airline easyJet is also due to cut staff, while baggage handler Swissport has announced that 100 posts will be lost. Local telecoms firm Sure has also told its staff that some jobs are at risk.

Malcolm Ferey, chief executive of Citizens’ Advice, said that while he welcomed signs of unemployment in Jersey reducing, his impression was that things would get worse again.

‘The figures are always a bit behind the curve but it is encouraging to see unemployment reducing,’ he said.

‘But we do feel that more job losses will be on the way as UK companies come under pressure going forward.

‘UK companies employ a lot of people in Jersey and, as they collapse or contract, Jersey is going to be affected by that shrinkage.’

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Mr Ferey, who works closely with the Social Security Department, said that he felt Jersey now needed to prepare as well as possible for a potential economic crisis, as it had done for a potential heath crisis.

‘So far in Jersey we have planned for the worst-case scenario in terms of health, now we need to do it for unemployment,’ he said.

‘We are expecting that the unemployment figures could end up 1,700 to 2,000 higher than the pre-crisis figures. But we will get through this if the right support is in place.’

Pre-crisis fewer than 1,000 Islanders were registered as Actively Seeking Work.

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Mr Ferey added that while the government’s Co-Funded Payroll Scheme, which paid 80% of staff wages in firms which had lost 30% or more of their turnover, it had not prevented some hardship.

‘For a lot of people being on 80% wages has really put a strain on their family finances,’ he said.

Other ‘economic indicator’ figures published by Statistics Jersey showed that the government had spent more than £40 million through the co-funding scheme, with 6,490 claims made.

Meanwhile, 50 business have applied for government-backed loans, worth £2.9 million in total, under the Business Disruption Loan Guarantee Scheme.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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